Malaysiakini Letter

Wan Azizah, a towering M'sian woman

Richard Kamalanathan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

I refer to the Malaysiakini report Anwar to contest Permatang Pauh .

Way back in and around the year 2000 when Wan Azizah Ismail formally took leadership of the reformasi movement and Keadilan, I was not sure that she would be able to provide the kind of leadership in absentia of her jailed husband Anwar Ibrahim other than just being a figurehead for the party.

It was a time when the BN machinery was rather too powerful; many of our reformasi supporters had no good jobs and not more than a few ringgit in the pocket to travel. The movement and the party and its members were poor and rather tardy.

I could remember when the present MP for Padang Serai Gobalakrishnan attended a meeting at our Damansara office. He was no more than a symbol of virtual poverty.

One look at him evinced that more and more of the party’s leaders were barely surviving with a hope for tomorrow. Many of the leaders could hardly attend meetings because they had had no money.

As we traveled to many of the kampung of Selangor such as Teluk Panglima Garang and many other places, we could see self-employed supporters of the party. Many were making their own ketchup and all kinds of things to sell to make a living.

And yet most of them supported the movement and Keadilan as they had already realised that the BN had become their greatest liability. It did not represent their problems. It did not care for them.

BN had deviated and had become a stooge for the rich and the powerful.

This was the time when Wan Azizah Ismail came onto take on the reins. You will not believe that Chandra Muzaffar had to guide her in conducting an executive council meeting also then attended by Hindraf’s P Uthayakumar.

He had insisted on an Indian division within the party but most of us disagreed and eventually he left the meeting when Wan Azizah put forth the party ideals and its vision for the future as a party for all Malaysians.

There were lots of people who had had come into the party to manipulate it for their own causes and yet the daughter of Dr Wan Ismail steered the movement to great heights, garnering the support of almost everyone who had had come forward to give a helping hand.

She was accommodative of the lay person and yet could communicate in good stature with people like the late Christopher Fernando, who helped her and our party with his legal expertise in times of great turbulence.

When Chandra Muzzafar left, many of us thought that the party would face a crisis of being without an oar.

But to our surprise, at the inaugural meeting of the new PKR at the Renaissance Hotel, this fine and great woman was able to hold both the oars for the sake of the people of Malaysia and steer the boat smoothly and with courage into the open rough ocean challenging the ‘Titanic’ of the BN.

Wan Azizah may have come in to the party for the sake of her husband, but she eventually took it upon herself to become its leader. She emerged as an outstanding personality of courage and care and instilled into every party member a vision of hope.

Wan Azizah is known for her simplicity and her adherence to strict principles for the family and the party. One could see through her eyes, the agony that she went through for the sake of her husband, who was tarnished and brutally man-handled and tortured physically and mentally for things he had not done.

She had had to sustain ‘a brutally injured family and a party of supporters’ against a powerful machinery that was out to destroy her and her family and her party.

I am not sure if many of us could even understand the kind of agony she has had to undergo in the last ten years. But she was able to overcome all those situations and eventually emerged as one of the greatest women Malaysia has ever seen.

I would closely compare her with Toh Puan Uma Sundari Sambanthan, for her stature and her strength to confront all kinds of humiliation a woman should not be subjected to.

I am very proud of Dr Wan Azizah Ismail as she sacrifices her parliamentary seat for her husband and looks forward to seeing him as the next prime minister of Malaysia.

Not many women could emerge like her as a wife, a mother, a daughter and a leader. I look forward to seeing her as our next First Lady.

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